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Mary Jane’s guide to medical marijuana recommendations in Ohio

You’ve been waiting and waiting and finally the day has come: The Patient Portal for the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (OMMCP) is accepting applications. You can be legal! But, how? Here are a few tips.

The basics: You must be an Ohio resident, age 18 years or older and diagnosed with one of 21 qualifying medical conditions. To obtain cannabis legally in Ohio as an individual, you must secure a recommendation from a physician with a certificate to recommend. This recommendation enables you to download a registry card from the Ohio Board of Pharmacy that you will take to a dispensary where you can purchase various forms of cannabis.

The 21 medical conditions include cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, Crohn’s Disease, Fibromyalgia, chronic pain and others that must be documented in your medical records. The Ohio State Medical Board can add new conditions.

Proof of your condition can be found by sorting through old bills and statements. Some conditions are straight forward; your last doctor bill will do. For more nebulous afflictions like pain, a binder holding multiple statements and reports might be helpful. Missing information can be obtained from your physician’s office by signing a from and paying a fee. You’ll also need an Ohio driver’s license, Ohio BMV-issued ID card or U.S. passport, as well as an email address.

ICD codes can make this process easier. Within your paperwork may be the ICD (International Classification of Diseases) codes that define your medical condition. ICD-10 currently predominates, but ICD-9 prevails in older documents. For example, the ICD-10 code for multiple sclerosis is G35; for ICD-9, it was 340. Cross reference your codes on the Internet to see what they mean. A statement with an indisputable diagnosis code may be just the proof you need.

A recommendation under HB 523, aka ORC 3796, is really a formalized statement from an MD or DO – only – that marijuana could be of benefit for your medical condition. It is not a prescription.

A dispensary is the only place where recommendations can be filled. Purchasable forms of cannabis include oils, tinctures, patches, edibles and plant material for vaporizers only – no smoking. The physician may specify an initial 90-day supply with as many as three refills (one year’s worth) that can combine all forms.

Physicians wishing to be certified to recommend can apply to the State Medical Board after completing a two-hour, $259 course concerning cannabis. Currently, Cannabis Expertise is the sole provider. The certification, which is free, attaches to the physician’s existing license as an endorsement.

A “bona fide physician-patient relationship” – made in good faith – is mandated by law in Ohio’s medical marijuana program. The legislature likely inserted this clause to deter “doctor mills”, envisioning your family physician as the recommender. Thus, the relationship is expected to be in person and ongoing. Recommendations are renewed annually. As of this writing, 374 physicians are certified to recommend in Ohio.

A medical tone should color your physician’s office. After all, this is a medical marijuana program! The space should be spotless with private exam rooms where, during a roughly hour-long visit, a nurse or technician takes vital signs and the doctor listens intently, pens notes and reviews your paperwork in detail. You will be asked to sign authorization forms to release your medical records and confirm that the doc has received them. The physician will also obtain an Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System (OARRS) report on you and explain the risks and benefits of using marijuana to treat your condition. While physicians can’t guarantee recommendations, if you follow the rules, you will likely receive one.

Your medical marijuana card will be generated after your recommending physician inputs data into the board of pharmacy’s Patient & Caregiver Registry. An email will arrive in your inbox containing link to a logon where you input your email address and a password to enter. Once inside, you’ll see an image of your card that you can download as a PDF or PNG image. The card will display your name, birthday, expiration date and a 20-digit personal identity code next to a QR code. Referenced on your smartphone or the printed card, this info enables access to dispensaries. Your registry page will also display your qualifying condition(s) and instructions for use, if any. The card will be valid one year from the month it was issued.

The cost isn’t cheap. Physicians appear to be charging $200-250 per visit, which fits within the range of specialists absent insurance coverage. The $50 price of your card is payable online with a credit card. Special considerations may be accorded to veterans, the indigent, minors or the terminally ill.

The toll free helpline 1-833-464-6627 can answer questions.

Mary Jane’s future guides will cover dispensaries and other aspects of Ohio’s new medical marijuana program. Stay tuned to learn more about how the OMMCP works!

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